Power, politics, and policy and the influence they have over African American people
According to Pastor Terrance Jacobs, former director with the Gamaliel Organization who was appointed to Africa, power is the concentration of “organized people and organized money” (taken from the Alinsky model). Pastor Jacobs went on to explain, at the Minneapolis Neighborhood Hub’s Health Disparities training that was held in late October, that a state of powerlessness is a sin!
My interpretation of his remark is that there is a whole lot of sin going around in Minnesota! In that one instance he essentially declared that seeking power is not a bad thing. Yet many of us have formed opinions about power to the effect that it is bad, that we don’t need too much of it, and that anyone seeking too much power should be watched closely.
Ultimately, many of us have been fed a lie! Power is not a bad thing! Power is something that we all face on a daily basis. Power in its simplest definition is the ability to influence others’ behavior with or without resistance.
As a community, Minnesota recently went to the polls and exercised their power to vote against mandating a photo I.D. for elections. On a daily basis, those of us who have children nourish and cultivate them to grow up to be successful and a positive influence upon their community, which is power. Some of us are managers in our day-to-day lives who have the ability to influence how a work flow should take place — that is power.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. back in the 1960’s led a group of people who had limited money to essentially change our American governmental system as we know it. Who would have thought that a Southern Baptist preacher could lead so many poor folks to fight for civil rights?
Power is around us every day of our lives. It is up to us to embrace and analyze that power so that we can use it to benefit the greater good of our communities.
So if power is organized people and organized money, then where do we stand as an African American community? Do we have organized people with the sole purpose of benefiting the African American community? If so, who are they? Where are they? How have they been effective and remained relevant to the times?
Do we have organized money? If so, what does that look like? How has that organized money benefited the African American community? Who has taken responsibility for that money?
My last question is this: If both organized money and organized people are all we need for African Americans to be empowered in Minnesota, then why are so many suffering from the disparities that plague Minnesota? I put some of these questions to Nick Muhammad of Torchlight Minnesota, and he stated that in order for us to gain power as an African American community we must do the following:
• Change our cultural perspective on how we look at wealth, Black-owned businesses, building Black-owned institutions, and being intentional about supporting each other.
• Analyze our tax base (such as the $4 billion of buying power African Americans of Minnesota have)
• Build up constituencies to support an African American agenda, not wavering to other people’s causes but instead building our own allies.
I am not here to tell you everything on the subject of power, but more so to challenge you to think about how you can use power in your own community to make a difference. Is what Nick Muhammad and Pastor Jacobs shared the right model for our African American community?
I will continue this discussion on power when I return for my January column. I would like to challenge each of you to write in and tell me how we can build power in the African American community.
I have fortunately received a small donation from a private source who would like to challenge you all as well by giving a $50 gift to a reader who can give a detailed account of what is power and how we can build power in the African American community. The winner will also have a portion of their thoughts published in my next article.
So as always I look forward to hearing from everyone! Thank you to all of my followers; I have had an overwhelming response from people around the world, and the Spokesman-Recorder has received a record number of hits to their website due to the last article.
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Mary Anderson is a community engagement facilitator for a local nonprofit in the Twin Cities area who has served more than 17 years in civic engagement, community organizing, and a host of philanthropic initiatives in the U.S. and abroad. She welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.